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Exploring the Red and Green Lights of Cluster
Development: Some practicalities
Workshop facilitated by Ifor Ffowcs-Williams,
Cluster Navigators Ltd, New Zealand
Participation at this conference workshop was limited to twenty-five to enable
an open sharing of experiences. Participant’s countries were a broad spread,
including: Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Italy, New
Zealand, Russia, Serbia, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland,
Turkey, Uganda and USA.
Titles included: Cluster Manager; Cluster Coordination and Research; Cluster VP;
Director R & D; Head of Cluster Policy; Cluster Monitoring and Evaluation; Cluster
President; General Director; Cluster Managing Director; VP Strategy.
Participants divided into five groups around five flip charts. All five groups
addressed the first three questions.
Thanks to Lina Maria Arbelaez Vasquez from Medellin, Colombia for taking
the flip chart photos that I have drawn on in preparing this summary. I have
included further reflections in the summary presented below.
1. What are the main objectives and the main functions of a cluster
development initiative?
Objectives:
• Development of the regional economy; Creating value growth
through innovation in important strategic areas;
• Enhanced competitiveness; Building the critical mass to develop
export markets;
2
• Bridge building: Private-private; academic-private; public-private …
by facilitating process and project management;
• Enhancing company innovation; Sharing of knowledge; Learning best
practices;
• Getting businesses involved; Identifying proactive
businesses/stakeholders.
Functions:
• Building trust;
• Mobilisation through
collaborative activities;
Bringing people together to
cooperate; Specialised targeted
collaboration events; Making
triple helix work; Networking;
Sharing resources;
• Building involvement across
agencies; All inclusive policy
making;
• Supporting start-ups; Company
development from SMEs to large;
• Attracting people, skills, new investment, public agency/NGO
support;
• Establishing a one-stop shop for businesses;
• Promoting research and innovation;
• Organise events e.g. networking meetings and capacity building
training; Conferences workshops; Creating innovative projects;
Information sharing; Short term initiatives;
• Identifying cross-cluster activities;
• Trend spotting; To map and keep updated the cluster actors;
• Start with the change agents; Establish partnerships.
2. What resources are required to support a cluster development initiative?
• Funding; Stable management and facilities;
• Attracting volunteers, experienced people … by offering value for
them.
And where could these resources come from?
• Public agencies/NGOs/academia/industry organisations;
• Seed money from government and companies; Membership fees;
3
• In-kind resources; Involvement of executives;
• Ideally, a combination of resources … to minimise funding risks, to
build collaboration amongst funders and to ensure that no one funder
over-influences the cluster’s development agenda.
3. What are some of the practical difficulties, obstacles in engaging on
cluster development?
• Lack of trust and collaboration; Absence of a willingness to cooperate;
Lack of public-private dialogue and confidence; Cultural differences
between industry actors
and universities;
• Too many un-coordinated
policies; Cluster
proliferation due to
politics/fashion;
• Short term funding
coupled with short-term
expectations; Sustainable
funding; Lack of time,
expectation of
instant/immediate
returns; Limited resources
… financial, human capital,
expertise…; To move from
motivation to
implementation, to
continuation/sustainability;
• Many stakeholders … trying to please everyone; To keep the
engagement and participation of members; Keeping stakeholders
engaged;
• Understanding cluster dynamics; Complexity of system;
• Cluster policy/support, lacking in transition countries, e.g. SE Europe;
• Limited expertise to facilitate cluster development, e.g. Uganda;
• Focus on projects, rather than process, e.g. South Africa;
• Intellectual property;
• Lack of awareness;
• Big donors control too much;
• To identify joint benefits and align them;
• To bring added value and increased size of projects;
• Balance between active and passive members.
4
For the final topic, each group took one of the following questions:
A. Describe the background, experiences of an ideal cluster manager.
• Firstly, relevant industry background with industry insights;
• Secondly, relationship building skills … able to bring together
business + academic + government … members of the triple helix with
differing priorities, cultures, time frames and vocabulary; (A personal
note: While well over half of Europe’s Cluster Managers have industry-specific
experience on their appointment, I place emphasis on networking and relationship
building skills and being neutral rather than industry background. However, an
external Cluster Manager may take some time to familiarise with the industry.)
• Project management and people networking skills;
• Marketing experience, branding, events management;
• Traveller, entertainer, story teller;
• Flexibility to put in long hours.
B. How should clusters for public support be selected?
• Already existing agglomerations of businesses … the seeds are
already in place to which ‘clustering fertiliser’ can then be applied;
• Start with leading businesses within a region;
• Motivated actors;
• Selection often through competition, with an independent (i.e. non-
political) panel adjudicating the winners. Competition offers flexibility
in defining a cluster’s boundaries, both geography and scope.
C. Ideally, who should be included on the Board of a clustering initiative?
• Covering the triple helix, with the majority of Board members
including the Chair from the private sector, both large firms and
innovative SMEs;
• Including research/academia and government/public agencies, the
later often with no vote, but present to integrate their knowledge and
to facilitate private-public alignment.
D. What are the roles of academia in cluster development?
• ‘Academia’ includes universities, vocational training, high schools and
public R&D;
• Academia as partners, as expert contributors;
• Industry research, market research;
5
• Future workforce development, talent development, specialised
labour/skills;
• Projects with businesses for university graduates.
E. What is your essential advice to
a new cluster manager?
• Must be enthusiastic, able
to motivate and to empower
the cluster’s stakeholders;
• Don’t take over too much,
push activity back onto
members;
• Build connections between
members by visiting;
• Focus on knowledge in
cluster, not theory;
• Collaboration is about
people, not about
companies/institutions;
• “It is all about people”
Many thanks to the twenty-five participants for actively sharing their
experiences at Daegu.
Further comments will be very welcomed.
Ifor Ffowcs-Williams
19 November 2015
E4@clusternavigators.com

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TCI 2015 Green Lights & Red Lights. The Practicalities of Cluster Development

  • 1. 1 Exploring the Red and Green Lights of Cluster Development: Some practicalities Workshop facilitated by Ifor Ffowcs-Williams, Cluster Navigators Ltd, New Zealand Participation at this conference workshop was limited to twenty-five to enable an open sharing of experiences. Participant’s countries were a broad spread, including: Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, Serbia, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, Uganda and USA. Titles included: Cluster Manager; Cluster Coordination and Research; Cluster VP; Director R & D; Head of Cluster Policy; Cluster Monitoring and Evaluation; Cluster President; General Director; Cluster Managing Director; VP Strategy. Participants divided into five groups around five flip charts. All five groups addressed the first three questions. Thanks to Lina Maria Arbelaez Vasquez from Medellin, Colombia for taking the flip chart photos that I have drawn on in preparing this summary. I have included further reflections in the summary presented below. 1. What are the main objectives and the main functions of a cluster development initiative? Objectives: • Development of the regional economy; Creating value growth through innovation in important strategic areas; • Enhanced competitiveness; Building the critical mass to develop export markets;
  • 2. 2 • Bridge building: Private-private; academic-private; public-private … by facilitating process and project management; • Enhancing company innovation; Sharing of knowledge; Learning best practices; • Getting businesses involved; Identifying proactive businesses/stakeholders. Functions: • Building trust; • Mobilisation through collaborative activities; Bringing people together to cooperate; Specialised targeted collaboration events; Making triple helix work; Networking; Sharing resources; • Building involvement across agencies; All inclusive policy making; • Supporting start-ups; Company development from SMEs to large; • Attracting people, skills, new investment, public agency/NGO support; • Establishing a one-stop shop for businesses; • Promoting research and innovation; • Organise events e.g. networking meetings and capacity building training; Conferences workshops; Creating innovative projects; Information sharing; Short term initiatives; • Identifying cross-cluster activities; • Trend spotting; To map and keep updated the cluster actors; • Start with the change agents; Establish partnerships. 2. What resources are required to support a cluster development initiative? • Funding; Stable management and facilities; • Attracting volunteers, experienced people … by offering value for them. And where could these resources come from? • Public agencies/NGOs/academia/industry organisations; • Seed money from government and companies; Membership fees;
  • 3. 3 • In-kind resources; Involvement of executives; • Ideally, a combination of resources … to minimise funding risks, to build collaboration amongst funders and to ensure that no one funder over-influences the cluster’s development agenda. 3. What are some of the practical difficulties, obstacles in engaging on cluster development? • Lack of trust and collaboration; Absence of a willingness to cooperate; Lack of public-private dialogue and confidence; Cultural differences between industry actors and universities; • Too many un-coordinated policies; Cluster proliferation due to politics/fashion; • Short term funding coupled with short-term expectations; Sustainable funding; Lack of time, expectation of instant/immediate returns; Limited resources … financial, human capital, expertise…; To move from motivation to implementation, to continuation/sustainability; • Many stakeholders … trying to please everyone; To keep the engagement and participation of members; Keeping stakeholders engaged; • Understanding cluster dynamics; Complexity of system; • Cluster policy/support, lacking in transition countries, e.g. SE Europe; • Limited expertise to facilitate cluster development, e.g. Uganda; • Focus on projects, rather than process, e.g. South Africa; • Intellectual property; • Lack of awareness; • Big donors control too much; • To identify joint benefits and align them; • To bring added value and increased size of projects; • Balance between active and passive members.
  • 4. 4 For the final topic, each group took one of the following questions: A. Describe the background, experiences of an ideal cluster manager. • Firstly, relevant industry background with industry insights; • Secondly, relationship building skills … able to bring together business + academic + government … members of the triple helix with differing priorities, cultures, time frames and vocabulary; (A personal note: While well over half of Europe’s Cluster Managers have industry-specific experience on their appointment, I place emphasis on networking and relationship building skills and being neutral rather than industry background. However, an external Cluster Manager may take some time to familiarise with the industry.) • Project management and people networking skills; • Marketing experience, branding, events management; • Traveller, entertainer, story teller; • Flexibility to put in long hours. B. How should clusters for public support be selected? • Already existing agglomerations of businesses … the seeds are already in place to which ‘clustering fertiliser’ can then be applied; • Start with leading businesses within a region; • Motivated actors; • Selection often through competition, with an independent (i.e. non- political) panel adjudicating the winners. Competition offers flexibility in defining a cluster’s boundaries, both geography and scope. C. Ideally, who should be included on the Board of a clustering initiative? • Covering the triple helix, with the majority of Board members including the Chair from the private sector, both large firms and innovative SMEs; • Including research/academia and government/public agencies, the later often with no vote, but present to integrate their knowledge and to facilitate private-public alignment. D. What are the roles of academia in cluster development? • ‘Academia’ includes universities, vocational training, high schools and public R&D; • Academia as partners, as expert contributors; • Industry research, market research;
  • 5. 5 • Future workforce development, talent development, specialised labour/skills; • Projects with businesses for university graduates. E. What is your essential advice to a new cluster manager? • Must be enthusiastic, able to motivate and to empower the cluster’s stakeholders; • Don’t take over too much, push activity back onto members; • Build connections between members by visiting; • Focus on knowledge in cluster, not theory; • Collaboration is about people, not about companies/institutions; • “It is all about people” Many thanks to the twenty-five participants for actively sharing their experiences at Daegu. Further comments will be very welcomed. Ifor Ffowcs-Williams 19 November 2015 E4@clusternavigators.com